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Monday, March 26, 2012

Mmm Melograno?

Forks: 4
Price: $$

2012 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA

Tonight I had a dinner date with some friends and was eager to try a new restaurant. One of my dates, my main date actually, Jaclyn, suggested we try Melograno, a well-known BYO in the middle of Center City. Honestly, I jumped. I LOVE Italian food and have been struggling to find some good Italian in Philadelphia. While Osteria and Vetri are remarkable, I'm seeking a low key place I can go to often and order an insanely comforting and cheesy chicken parmesan. Is that so much to ask? Well, I was hoping Melograno's would be this place. When we walked in, it had promise. A simple yet intriguing menu, while not exactly Italian comfort, had comforting flavors that were ready to warm my old not-so-Italian soul (I swear I actually must be some part Italian, I like food too much). We had a little wine buying mishap, *cough being 21 will make life easier cough* so while the vino wasn't flowing, we didn't really mind as the conversation was flowing N-E-WAYZ. The atmosphere was nice; warm wooden chairs and tables with a relaxed dim lighting and a somewhat open view of the kitchen. The menu boasted antipasti, pasta courses, entrées and sides and we munched on Foccacia and rustic sourdough as we planned our meals. The olive oil was really good and the Foccacia had a nice crisp crunch on the outside but was a little to crusty in the middle. To start, we ordered the Antipasti Rustico, an array of cured meats, cheeses, spreads, and vegetables. The spread was classic and elegant; a simple buffalo mozzarella, grilled marinated zucchini, artichokes, and eggplant, some salami and prosciutto, a variety of olives, and three crostini topped with spreads, (artichoke, olive tampenade, and mushroom). Yes, it was good, but for $17, I was expecting a little more. While the eggplant and artichoke were probably the group favorites the mozzarella was a little watery and didn't have a great texture.

For a main course, I ordered the Zuppetta di Mare, a spicy fish stew with a Fregola and Saffron broth. The stew was a large portion (always appreciated), of a mix of mussels, shrimp, pieces of sword fish, and calamari nestled in a chunky tomatoey broth. It was good, the shellfish was fresh and the broth had a great hearty flavor and wasn't fishy at all and when I dipped a piece of the crusty sourdough into it, the flavors sang.

 Jaclyn got the Gamberoni, grilled shrimp with creamy polenta and a gorgonzola sauce. The shrimp were a nice size and well cooked, but the polenta really kind of ruined the dish. It was cold, lumpy, and tough, three things that polenta should not be, and I was disappointed as polenta is one of my FAVE things.

If there are truffles mentioned anywhere on a menu, Ali will order whatever item it is that features them, the magic word is all she needs to see. While she prefers actual truffles, *major truffle diva*, when she saw the Pappardelle Tartufate which boasted wild mushrooms, walnuts, pecorino, and truffle oil,  even though she hates mushrooms (and ordered it without) she couldn't resist the magic word and had to have it. This pasta was disappointing. The noodles were all stuck together and overall the pasta was bland. While I wouldn't have skimped on the mushrooms, I can't imagine that they could have saved the dish because it was lacking in basics to begin with.

Neesh and Dre split the Ravioli alla Zuca, a ravioli filled with pumpkin, amaretto, and mascarpone (if you're Ali its pronounced mask-car-pony) with a brown butter sage sauce. The dynamic duo said the ravioli was good, but was slightly undercooked and a little chewy. Neesh said the filling, however, was great and "packed a good punch" *Neesh is a food critic in training<3*.

Nes and Elena both ordered the Pappardelle Al Ragú di Cinghiale, a pasta with braised wild Boar Ragu. While I didn't get a taste, the two weren't overwhelmed with euphoria and said it was decent, not great.

 The good, not great motto, excluding my dish which was good-er, seemed to be a common theme of the meal. I won't be running back to Melograno and was disappointed as it will not be filling the gaping black hole in my heart for my go-to Italian spot. Maybe it would have been better with a lil of that vino...

still longingly searching

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